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If local theater companies suffer from the rap that they can only get serious about Shakespeare, consider two new TV campaigns for the Virginia Theater and Minnesota's Youth Performance Company.

A spot from Richmond's Arnold Finnegan Martin for the Virginia Theater, writer Joan Shealy says, tries to show how performing "consumes these actors' lives." In the :30, a young woman folding clothes in a laundromat suddenly launches into a melodramatic monologue in which she reminisces about being stranded in the desert by a lover. "I looked death straight in the eye," she says to her stunned audience of sweaty customers. Michael Ulick of Slavin Schaffer Films directed.

Similarly, a series of funny commercials from Hunt/Murray for the Youth Performance troupe catches kids in typical lies to show the acting abilities of its young cast. Directed by Rick Dublin of local Dublin Productions, one of the spots shows a teenage boy at the police station stammering an explanation to his dad about how his car landed in a tree: "So you can imagine my surprise when your car drove by with Boutros Boutros-Ghali behind the wheel."

Other Hunt Murray credits to AD Steve Mitchell, writer Doug Adkins and CD Mike Murray. At AFM, credit also AD Ian Barry and co-CDs Matt Smith and Steve Bassett.

"There's a negative perception about cars being toys, particularly with brands like Suzuki and Daihatsu," notes Chuck McBride, copywriter at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "But being an adult toy embodies what the Isuzu is all about."

Expanding the idea literally, McBride and art director Chris Hooper incorporated the tagline "Grow Up. Not Old" into a commercial that shows a dad and his young son wandering through a warehouse-sized toy store. After checking out a plastic potty seat, the disenchanted dad grumbles, "We're outta here." He heads out, maneuvering his shopping cart so the Barneys and Power Rangers are out of his tot's grasp, while he mutters complaints like "batteries" and "too many parts." Suddenly the pair stop, and, awestruck, gawk at something you'll never find at Toys R Us: an actual Rodeo truck, boxed up on the shelf. Battery included.

Michael Bay of Propaganda Films/Los Angeles directed; Elias & Associates and Piece of Cake, both Los Angeles, created the music.

A PSA for the World Wildlife Fund, from Ogilvy & Mather/New York, hones the talents of London animator Osbert Parker to illuminate the fragile interdependency of the environment.

Directed through Propaganda Films, London, the stop-motion spot begins as a lumberjack sets his chainsaw into a large card picturing a rhino. As it falls, the camera draws back and we see the card tumbling dominolike into a row of cards labeled with endangered species and natural elements. They fall in a circle, until the last card, reading "Oxygen," comes crashing down on the lumberjack.

In the context of the spot, nature's precious elements become "powerful pillars," explains art director Walt Connelly. "We wanted it to have this parable feeling so it would be a bit of a lesson learned."

A soundtrack of animal noises recorded backwards, designed by Chris Franklin of Big Sky, New York, was another layer meant to add an ominous, otherworldly tone, Connelly adds.

The British photo duo known as the Douglas Brothers shot the print ads, reinforcing the theme of interconnectivity with a collage of sepia-toned and full-color animal photos.

Other agency credits to producer Jane Rubin, writer Bruce Richter and CD Mary Ann Zeman. Editing by Wilcox & Wilcox, special effects by Complete Video, music

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